Thursday, July 31, 2008

Catholic Clergy Clueless on What Freedom of Religion Means

In response to PZ Myers great desecration of a communion wafer, The Confraternity of Catholic Clergy
took this opportunity to demonstrate they have no understanding whatsoever of the concept of freedom of religion. Their statement is factually and logically flawed from beginning to end, a near pure product of misinformation and ignorance.

"The Confraternity of Catholic Clergy (a national association of 600 priests & deacons) respond to the sacrilegious and blasphemous desecration of the Holy Eucharist by asking for public reparation. We ask all Catholics of Minnesota and of the entire nation to join in a day of prayer and fasting that such offenses never happen again."

Pity the pious never leave it at that. A lot of wars could have been avoided.

"We find the actions of University of Minnesota (Morris) Professor Paul Myers reprehensible, inexcusable, and unconstitutional. His flagrant display of irreverence by profaning a consecrated Host from a Catholic church goes beyond the limit of academic freedom and free speech."

OK, from their point of view, reprehensible and inexcusable make sense. But unconstitutional? Since when does the constitution say "the right of wafers to not be tossed in the garbage impaled by a nail will not be infringed". Truly, this statement is daft, and calls into serious question the credibility of this group.

"The same Bill of Rights which protect freedom of speech also protect freedom of religion. The Founding Fathers did not envision a freedom FROM religion, rather a freedom OF religion."

This is nonsense. In order for me to have freedom of religion, I must be free from your religion, and all others, just like everyone else's freedom of religion means they must be free from mine. And of course, the atheist needs to be free of all religions. One cannot have freedom OF religion without freedom FROM religion.

"In other words, our nation's constitution protects the rights of ALL religions, not one and not just a few. Attacking the most sacred elements of a religion is not free speech anymore than would be perjury in a court or libel in a newspaper. "

To illustrate how idiotic this statement is, consider a religion that required the deposition of communion wafers in the garbage, or any other situation where one religion's view conflicts with another's. Obviously freedom of religion must allow one man to follow his religious predilections even if they conflict with anothers.

The comparison to perjury and libel is poor, and reveals the basic lack of understanding of the broader issues these gentlemen have. Libel and perjury are sensible concepts because they refer to an objective reality, where right and wrong can be ascertained. Religion is not such a subject, which is the very reason we have freedom of religion in the first place. All opinions of the nature and number of the gods are equally valuable, or equally worthless, depending on how one chooses to look at the issue. There can be no right and wrong when the answer is forever unknown.

"Lies and hate speech which incite contempt or violence are not protected under the law."

True, aside from the part about contempt, but irrelevant nonetheless in this case. What lie did PZ Myers tell? What violence did he incite? None that I can see. He threw a wafer in the trash. Sure, the Catholics believe that wafer is the literal body of Christ, but that belief has no more bearing on Myers than the belief by some that teddy bears are living beings would have on my right to toss mine in the garbage if I see fit. This is the point about freedom of religion that these gentlemen can't seem to grasp. Freedom of religion means you can believe anything is holy that you wish. It doesn't mean you have the right to force others to act as if they shared your beliefs.

"Hence, inscribing Swastikas on Jewish synagogues or publicly burning copies of the Christian Bible or the Muslim Koran, especially by a faculty member of a public university, are just as heinous and just as unconstitutional."

Inscribing a swastika, or anything else, on a synagogue or church, is vandalism, a violation of property rights, as would be the burning of Bibles or Korans owned by others. But again, your views on the holiness of those books puts no burden on me. I am entirely within my right to burn any book I choose, the Bible, the Koran, or the God Delusion.

"Individual freedoms are limited by the boundaries created by the inalienable rights of others. The freedom of religion means that no one has the right to attack, malign or grossly offend a faith tradition they personally do not have membership or ascribe allegiance."

What utter nonsense! So now only Catholics can criticize Catholics? How convenient for them, and how convenient for me. See, I was confirmed in the Catholic church, so I guess I do have the right to burn Bibles, trash Eucharists, and bugger alter boys. Oh wait, I have to be a priest for that, but I digress.

Freedom of religion means that no one has the right to stop you from believing and worshiping as you see fit. THAT is the boundary created by the inalienable rights of others. Your religious rights end when you enter my place of worship, and vice versa.

"The Chancellor of the University refused to reprimand or censure the teacher, who ironically is a Biology Professor. One fails to see the relevance of the desecration of a Catholic sacrament to the science of Biology. Were Myers a Professor of Theology, there would have been at least a presumption of competency to express religious opinions in a classroom."

The Catholic gentlemen's grasp of the facts of this case seem no better than their grasp of the constitution. Myers did nor perform his act as a biology professor in a biology class, but as a private citizen exercising his right to free expression. Just what is the Chancellor supposed to reprimand Myers for, abuse of yeast?

"Yet, for a scientist to ridicule and show utter contempt for the most sacred and precious article of a major world religion, is inappropriate, unprofessional, unconstitutional and disingenuous."

Disingenuous? These guys get better all the time. Are they now claiming Myers did not really mean to trash the cracker?

"A biologist has no business 'dissing' any religion, rather, they should be busy teaching the scientific discipline they were hired to teach. Tolerating such behavior by university officials is equally repugnant as it lends credibility to the act of religious hatred. We also pray that Professor Myers contritely repent and apologize."

I pray to the great trashed bread that in the future, the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy make more of an effort to ascertain the facts of a case before bearing false witness against a citizen. I also hope they learn a little about freedom of religion and speech, and that it must, if it is to have any meaning at all, allow for speech and religions we find repugnant.


Anonymous said...


ScienceAvenger said...

Yeah, but even I didn't think it could be THIS bad.